Kids progressively increase salt consumption: cause for concern

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Sodium consumption progressive

cdc-levelsA fact sheet released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is attempting to help US families cut down their sodium intake, as there is “cause for concern” that high sodium consumption in early life leads to higher consumption later.

It turns out that the older kids get, the more sodium they consume: it’s progressive.  According to the What We Eat in America, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, released in 2010, kids continue to increase their sodium intake as they get older. The survey showed that while 8-12 year olds and 13-18 year olds consume 3,206 and 3,486 mg, respectively, levels that are much higher than the recommended upper limit.

What’s more, a 2012 study of U.S. children and adolescents found that a high sodium diet had a higher impact in overweight and obese participants compared to normal weight participants.

The CDC point out that importantly, studies suggest infants’ and children’s preference for sodium is shaped by dietary exposure, so the less sodium children consume, the less they want.

Sources of Sodium

The higher sodium levels are not coming out of a salt shaker. Children and adolescents are getting most of their sodium consumption from processed foods and restaurants; much the same as the adult population.

The top 10 sodium sources for people aged 2-19 years old are:

  1. Pizza
  2. Breads & rolls
  3. Poultry
  4. Cold cuts & cured meats
  5. Sandwiches
  6. Savory snacks
  7. Soups
  8. Cheese
  9. Mixed pasta dishes
  10. Frankfurters & sausage

The CDC offers the following recommendations to improve the habits and health of families:

At the grocery store:

  • Read food labels and compare the sodium amount in different products, then choose the options with the lowest amounts of sodium. Some varieties of bread can vary from 80 to 230 mg of sodium per slice! That can make a big difference in lunchtime sandwiches.
  • Choose packaged foods labeled “low sodium” or “no salt added” when possible.
  • Select fresh, frozen, or canned fruits and vegetables with no salt or sauce added.
  • When buying prepared meals, look for those with less than 600 mg of sodium per meal.
  • Ask your grocer if they have a low sodium shopping list available.
  • Ask to speak to the registered dietitian (RD) at your local grocery store to learn more about buying lower sodium products. If your grocer doesn’t have an RD, ask your doctor for a referral. There may be a fee involved, but an RD can provide valuable guidance on reducing your family’s sodium intake and managing blood pressure.

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At home:

  • When cooking, use alternatives to replace or reduce the amount of salt you use such as garlic, onion powder, citrus juice, or salt-free seasonings.
  • Prepare rice, pasta, beans, and meats from their most basic forms (dry and fresh) when possible. If you don’t have a lot of time, allow dry beans to soak overnight then drain and store them in the refrigerator so they are ready to cook for dinner the next day.
  • Prepare healthful meals and snacks in advance so they are ready to eat during the week. Chop and pre-portion fruits and vegetables, prepare a salad for the week, and make dressings and sauces from scratch.
  • Encourage your children to eat more healthful, lower sodium foods by making it fun.
  • Have your kids help you freeze fresh fruit for popsicles.
  • Create a low-fat or nonfat yogurt and herb dip for vegetables.
  • Make trail mix using unsalted nuts, dried fruit, and whole grain cereal.

On the go:

  • Ask for nutrition information before you order, then select a lower sodium meal.
  • Ask that no salt be added to your meal.
  • Split a meal with your child or another family member.
  • Keep takeout and fast food—such as burgers, fried chicken, and pizza—to an occasional treat.

Download the fact sheet: http://www.cdc.gov/salt/pdfs/children_sodium.pdf

Learn more at: http://www.cdc.gov/salt

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